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5 Lessons Learned from My First Year as a Debut Novelist

It’s hard to believe my novel, A Lot of People Live in This House, is celebrating its first birthday! I beat the statistics for debut novels and sold over a thousand copies of my book, and I am excited for even more readers to find my cozy novel about found family, grief, and the power of community. Now that I’m an expert (ha), here are 5 things lessons for debut novelists that I learned so you don't have to.

1. Waited longer between receiving final proofs and publishing

The issue with not working with a traditional publisher is that no one really tells you what a realistic timeline is for publishing a book. In hindsight, I get why a book deal to a book release takes two years. However, had I waited longer between getting my delivery of books and the publication date, I could have sent out PR boxes to book influencers. Those people would have hyped my book up for me instead of the ARC readers who requested A Lot of People Live in This House from a Net Galley. Not to sound ungrateful to those early readers, but sending hard copies would have helped me get attention. And I understand why I was impatient. I wanted to celebrate graduating from Harvard Medical School and getting my book published at the same time. Take it from me: Don’t do that. Take your time.

2. Found more book influencers

In that same vein, I should have tried to find more literary fiction readers on social media before releasing the book. At the time, grad school dominated so much of my life and emotional space that there wasn’t much left to find influencers. My manager did a great job of finding bigger creators, but I think I could have done a better job finding people myself because I’m the one who consumes that content. Also, not every creator you reach out to needs to be a big creator. Plenty of small book influencers would love to read your book! If I did it again, I’d send a PR box to 100 influencers. I might even do that as a birthday celebration!

3. Niched down and found my readers sooner

Marketing is hard. Marketing for a literary fiction novel on social media, a place flooded with romance (and rightfully so), is almost impossible. Almost. Now, over a year into the whole social media thing, I realize that there are a lot of people out there (ha) who would love to read a story about communal living, grief, and the power of friendship. Had I done a better job of finding my niche earlier on, finding people to read A Lot of People Live in This House would have been easier. Fortunately, the book is out, and I can still work on doing this now.

4. Spent money on Google and Meta Ads

Sometimes, you really do have to spend money to make money. A lot of my indie-published writing friends say that they’ve seen success with buying ads on Meta platforms. I’m still trying to work this portion out, but I think it would have helped raise my profile sooner. Now that I have more paid marketing experience under my belt, thanks to my day job, I’m feeling more confident about where and how to spend my money. If you’re an indie or hybrid writer, set some money aside in your budget for this. Some people go viral, and others have to sing for supper. If you’re in the latter category, start learning about ads while working on your next viral organic campaign.

5. Made better PR boxes

Okay, maybe I don’t need to do this, but social media influenced me to think I need to make PR boxes for readers. That being said, I think they are such a nice touch. Some folks seem to have a lot of money for candles, toys, and swag. At the time, we were paying for my master’s degree, so this wasn’t an option. That being said, I want a re-do. Maybe I’ll budget for 50 PR boxes that include a copy of the book, some stickers, a bookmark, a branded journal, and some recipe cards from the Chopped scene.

Unless you’re a big-time author with the full force of a publishing house behind you (which happens so rarely these days), there’s no right way to market your book. What you should focus on is what’s sustainable for you. Now that I have more free time and am in less emotional distress than I was a year ago, I think I’m ready to saddle up and try it again. If you’re a soon-to-be-published author, I wish you all the luck in the world! Let me know if any of these tricks work for you so I can copy your success.

Happy 1-year birthday to A Lot of People Live in This House!

Celebrate with us and get your copy today! All birthday copies of my novel will come with a silly drawing of a birthday cake done by yours truly.


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